(Kyle MacLachlan) (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)

Coffee. Agent. Case files. These are the words that Dale Cooper clings to as he’s pushed through the world in place of Dougie Jones. Appropriately for a story of one man stumbling around in another man’s being, “The Return, Part 5” focuses on vehicles. The first words of the “The Return, Part 5” are spoken by Gene, who planted a sinister device on Dougie Jones’ car. “I just drove by. His car’s still there.” And so it is, scrutinized by the neglected little boy squatting with his mother in an empty house across the street.

(Sawyer Shipman) (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)

The camera (like every episode of the revival, “Part 5” is directed by David Lynch) parallels the cars of the toughs targeting Dougie and the hapless car thieves who end up triggering the car bomb intended for him. Filmed from the same angles, both muscle cars creep along the street as they approach, stop to inspect Dougie’s sedan, and cruise away through the near-abandoned development of Rancho Rosa. (That name, which echoes the Double R diner, is also the name of Twin Peaks’ production company.)

A red muscle car. (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)

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Dougie’s wife Janey drives him and Sonny Jim around in an old wood-paneled Jeep Grand Wagoneer, like Skyler White—another wife in another desert suburb who knew nothing of her husband’s new identity. Janey spends her screen time pushing Dale Cooper into Dougie’s clothes, Dougie’s schedule, Dougie’s life. She shoves her supposed husband in and out of her car just as firmly as she shoves the newly arrived, apparently catatonic Dale Cooper along in the vehicle that is Dougie Jones.

In the beginning and now, in the end, the story of Twin Peaks—of Laura Palmer’s murder, of Dale Cooper’s possession, of his return to this plane—is the story of the body as a vehicle. (As I mentioned last week, expect these reviews to contain spoilers for the original Twin Peaks.) In “Episode 16,” just before Leland’s death, Bob gloats, “Leland, you’ve been a good vehicle, and I’ve enjoyed the ride.” In “The Return, Part 3,” officers arriving at the scene of Dark Coop’s car crash call for gas masks because “there’s something bad in this vehicle.” There is. There’s a dangerous crackling energy, and a lapful of garmonbozia poisoning the air. But there’s something worse in that vehicle: a dark force that’s hijacked a good man’s body and driven it hard for a quarter of a century.

That ruthless entity turned one of the most upright, earnest, compassionate characters in television into an instrument of evil. He knows his captive is struggling to come back, and now he’s a captive himself. If Dark Coop was scary roaming free, he’s twice as frightening in a cage. He’ll do anything in his power—and judging by his omniscience of his warden’s plan and his disruption of the prison electrical system, his power is vast and inscrutable—to retain the conveyance he’s corrupted. He abuses that former agent’s agency as a tool to inspire fear, because fear (as we know from Agent Cooper’s intuitive instruction in “Episode 21”) is what Bob feeds on.

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Alone in his cell, Dark Cooper looks steadily into his tiny shaving mirror, and Bob (the late Frank Silva) looks out, his features materializing just under the stolen, weathered face of Dale Cooper. I can’t guess what any other viewer’s reaction to that moment was; for me, it was a frisson of revulsion, terror, and perverse giggling. But under it all bubbled up a weird joy that Frank Silva—who was never intended to act in the first incarnation of Twin Peaks, whose accidental appearance in a mirror behind Grace Zabriskie inspired Lynch—has found his way into this revival of the show he helped make an exemplar of modern television.

In the weeks since Twin Peaks’ third season debuted, I’ve been thinking of, even envying, those of you who get to watch the show without the necessity of immediately dissecting it, analyzing it, trying to summarize it. It’s both a pleasure and a privilege to review this series, but if I had the luxury of not thinking about it, I’d stop. I’d just bask in it for a while, letting my mind wander freely over its images and the feelings it evokes. I might even save it to watch in one long weekend, as an 18-hour movie… as David Lynch intends it to be.

However you choose to watch Twin Peaks’ return, it’s a lot to take in, whether you wait and watch all 18 hours in one long session or come around every Sunday night to watch them piecemeal, or something in between. Doris Truman (Candy Clark) is peevish and unsympathetic, but that annoyance is recognizable. We can’t keep our eyes on a bucket all day! All this stuff is slopping everywhere! We’ll get black mold! You’re impossible!

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Or maybe some viewers feel like they’re watching Lawrence Jacoby, who spouts a lot of high-minded ideals about freedom, liberty, and justice into his webcam and mic. But after a long, incoherent ramble about the evils of corporations and the poisons they’re filling us with and a pledge to fight ignorance, Jacoby turns out to be selling salvation from shit in the shape of his golden shovels for the low, low cost of $29.99 plus shipping and handling.

For people wanting a linear story from these long stretches of waiting, watching, and (this week) driving, it must be brutally frustrating to see the atmospherics overtake the story, to see the series as a vehicle for strangeness. But the atmospherics of Twin Peaks always outranked the story—or maybe it’s more precise to say the atmospherics were the story. Twin Peaks isn’t, and never has been, a procedural adorned with transcendental flourishes. The meaning has always been in the arcane, in the inscrutable, in the transcendental. The procedural elements are just the vehicle they ride around in. They’re the flashy details that get us to hop in for a ride, not the engine driving this thing.

Stray observations

  • It is happening again: Norma (Peggy Lipton) calls out for Toad, and the credits list Toad, but that’s not the Toad we know and… uh, just know. Rather than big, red-bearded Kevin Young, who was the original Toad, this Toad is played by Marv Rosand, who appeared in Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces, and to whom this episode is dedicated.
  • Also according to the credits, the young man ostentatiously smoking beneath a no smoking sign (Eamon Farren) is Richard Horne. Uh-oh.
  • In addition to the significance of the cars listed above, the scene of Dougie’s exploded car, complete with conveniently difficult to identify corpse, cuts directly to Jade’s yellow Jeep getting rubbed down. Showing that Shelley’s daughter is following her example of a disastrous early marriage to a ne’er-do-well, Steve and Becky Burnett (Caleb Landry Jones, Amanda Seyfried) play out a long scene in their T-bird, followed by a lingering close-up on Becky’s ecstatic face as they speed along. And there’s also Dale Cooper’s long tearful gaze at Sonny Jim sitting alone in that Woody, such a small, innocent soul in a hulking great vehicle.
  • The hallways shown in the surveillance of Dark Coop’s “private” phone call reminded me, as I suppose any grainy black-and-white footage of a hallway from that angle will forever, of Phillip Jeffries’ (David Bowie’s) appearance in Fire Walk With Me.

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